Lennie Pond, the 1973 Rookie of the Year in NASCAR's premier series, died on Wednesday at age 75 of complications of cancer, a family spokesperson said this morning.
Pond, a native of Ettrick, Virginia, raced for 17 seasons in NASCAR's premier series with 234 career starts, one win, 39 top fives, 88 top 10s and five pole positions.
NASCAR released a statement that read: "NASCAR extends its condolences to the friends and family of Lennie Pond, a true racer and for decades a fixture at Virginia short tracks -- where he was a five-time Late Model champion. Throughout his career, Lennie boasted accolades including the 1973 premier series rookie of the year title and a Talladega win, but it was his passion for speed, competition and racing that made him a favorite among fans and fellow competitors alike."
Pond's only career win came in the 1978 Talladega 500 while driving for Harry Ranier at a speed of 174.7 mph, the fastest 500-mile win in motorsports at that time.
He finished fifth in the final Cup standings in 1976 and seventh in 1978.
In 1973, Pond beat out Darrell Waltrip in a spirited race for the Rookie of the Year title. Pond finished 23rd in the final Cup standings that season; Waltrip was 28th.
In 1976, Pond was the winner of the ARCA 200 at Daytona. Pond was also the runner-up in the NASCAR National Sportsman Championship behind Rene Charland in 1965 and a five-time champion in Virginia Late Models.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. was among those with a NASCAR connection who honored Pond via social media Wednesday:
Prayers for family of racer Lennie Pond who passed away from complications with cancer. Lucky to have raced with him once. 1973 Cup ROY.— Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@DaleJr) February 10, 2016
Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@DaleJr) February 10, 2016
Very sad. Great competitor, truly one of the nicest guys in racing. Corvette guy, loved talking cars & racing. https://t.co/aPD0pWc9h8— Mike Joy (@mikejoy500) February 10, 2016